— From EF —

Richard Thompson played at the Clearwater Festival yesterday, and I tuned in to the live-stream from WFUV. My modem kept dropping the stream about every three minutes, but my methodical clicking got me most of the set. (I am a fan of RT, way beyond enthusiastic.) I can identify all his songs on the basis of the first three notes of the intro, and so could a lot of folks in the live audience — whistles and cheers testified. Having been to a lot of his concerts, I’m familiar with that little lurch of delight, and it’s intensified by being among kindred souls.

Last night was the summer solstice edition of the Oral Tradition poetry salon in Sebastopol, and as person after person spoke from heart and memory, an extraordinary wave of love and connection built and built and built. Nobody whistled or cheered, but it was the same reaction — instant recognition of what was coming (all these folks have gargantuan memories) and audible appreciation. Sometimes we even chanted along sotto voce. Tears were shed, smiles were radiant. After a while, I swear you could see the room shimmering.

The salon host is very straightforward about having an agenda — he believes that revival of the oral tradition in a community of sharing can help heal the collective soul. I agree. I have always felt that any experience of joy contributes to Gaia’s gas tank, so to speak. I don’t know how many miles she gets to the gallon, but our collective contribution could fuel a pretty impressive fling.

A good party is awesome in its own way too, but it makes a difference when everybody is tuned in to the same thing at the same time. Fascist rallies don’t have a patent on this. In our own time of painful idiocy and planetary destruction, we need joy more than ever. W. S. Merwin got it right — go read his poem, “Thanks,” which ends like this:

we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is

 — From CB —

We live on a half acre, none of it regular lawn, so I do a lot of weeding. On portions of it I’ve achieved a rough balance between civilization and jungle; other parts are still subject to “survival of the fittest.” I enjoy being out there, even if only for half an hour a day. Better than trying to put my desk in order.

I’ve joked that I’m really engaged in Ethnic Cleansing — weed the clover out of the moss bank, restrain the creeping Jenny, pluck out the migratory colonies of baby’s tears, and utterly destroy all burr clover, sticky-weed, stinky-weed — stuff that I don’t even know what it’s called but I know I don’t like it. And keep pushing back the tall grass to let the asters have room.

But I’m a bit disturbed at how apt my jocular metaphor seems. It’s not a question of the ethics of animal slaughter or whether broccoli feels pain — that’s another debate. I’m simply musing on the psychology of purification. Obviously, there’s great difference, at least to this human, between weeding out weeds and weeding out human beings. But I’m thinking about the similarity.

Certainly, one motive force in genocide is hatred, another may be material advantage, another the adrenalin rush of killing. Those are forces that foment mob violence, but you can’t run a concentration camp or a gulag on adrenalin. That requires routine, the same rituals day after day. I can’t imagine that technicians sitting in front of video screens, tapping in missile strikes from drones are screaming, “Kill! Kill!” They’re just doing their job. It’s only when you can reduce the act of hacking or shooting or gassing people to the emotional neutrality of pulling up weeds that you can keep things running smoothly.

Nor do I curse the stinky-weed. But there’s a great, compelling urge to control the aesthetics, to clear up the disorder, to correct Nature’s grammatical mistakes. That satisfaction of completion, cleansing, purification, imposing your smooth-shaven jaw on the world at large — how satisfying, how potentially deadly.

I won’t be letting the weeds — the bio-organisms I designate as weeds —grow or prosper any time soon. But the metaphor echoes.

— From the Fool —

I saw an ad for a book. Ten Habits of Highly Successful Men. I guess if you buy that book and do those habits you’ll get a belly that says you’re highly successful.

But the book cost more than you’d pay unless you were already in it. So I just tried to figure out the ten habits. I’ll just tell all, so everybody can be successful, not just me.

1. Get out of bed in the morning.

2. Go to the bathroom.

3. Get a job where you’re highly successful.

4. Buy the book to see if there’s anything you missed.

Then I had to think hard. I had to be smarter.

5. Be smarter.

6. Don’t ever drink more than a little too much.

That one came right off the top of the head. Then I asked my friend Joe if he had any ideas, but he’d just had a big fight with his wife. “Fuck you,” he said.

7. Fuck you.

At least that’s the prevailing opinion from highly successful men. But I needed three more if I was ever going to be a highly successful fool that would eat in restaurants. Maybe some homey wisdom.

8. Brush your teeth.

Getting down to the bottom of the barrel. Have to think hard.

9. Think hard.

But then I was stuck. I thought maybe “Make a list” would do it, but then I thought, no, “Lie and steal,” “Get a gun,” or “Pray” might work better. Finally, true inspiration:

10. Get off your ass and do what you ought to be doing.

We’ll see how it goes. I’m watching the best-seller list.


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© Bishop & Fuller 2014




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